Robert Treichler is used to being the only soccer fan at the bar. But that wasn’t the case Thursday.
Joining Treichler at Thirsty Fellow were his boss and most of his coworkers from the James Smith P.A. law firm in Columbia, as they and more than 200 fans of the United States men’s national team gathered to see the Americans play Germany and advance to the second round of World Cup play.
“It’s easier to be a fan now than it ever was,” Treichler said. “I’ve never seen this many people into it at the same time. Usually it’s a small group of us that band together.”
Even non-soccer fans “are excited about it in a way that I’ve never seen,” he said.
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That has been the effect of the World Cup on many casual observers of the game, such as state Attorney General Alan Wilson, who took an hour break from his day to watch the game with friends at Thirsty Fellow. Though not an avid fan of soccer, “I am a big fan of America,” Wilson said over a plate of sweet potato fries and a burger.
Other state government members, including Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland; Rep. James Smith, D-Richland; Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland; and Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, took a pause from their day at Thirsty Fellow to witness the Americans’ 0-1 loss to the Germans.
Despite the midday timing, the game provided a great business boost for Thirsty Fellow, said bartender Cameron Shealy. The restaurant brought staffers in earlier to prepare for the crowd, to get the kitchen ready for the lunchtime game and, of course, to “make sure the beer is ice cold, ready to go,” he said.
“We were definitely ready,” Shealy said. “... You know, usually the city of Columbia dies in the summer, so this is great. It’s good for all the businesses. I think everybody’s liking it.”
Chelsea June of Charleston was liking the atmosphere on the Thirsty Fellow porch, sporting an American flag bandana and taking in the game with friends Farah, Jade and Jake Diehl of Columbia.
On Sunday, June had watched the Americans play to a draw against Portugal while at work – “I got yelled at by my boss for screaming too loud,” she said.
A soccer player for 20 years, June is a passionate fan, and she said it makes her happy to see so many people excited about soccer for once.
“To me, it’s a superior sport because it’s played worldwide, not just in one place,” she said. “It’s so awesome that one sport can unite the entire world.”